A pick-pocket guide to travelling around Spain

By Francesca Fantoni

Just a few weeks ago I finished my Spanish degree, so taking a trip to Spain seemed like a fitting way to celebrate. With my £20 flight and all my belongings in one backpack, travelling abroad has never felt so in reach. However, no matter how confident you feel travelling, it’s always worth remembering how important it is to stay alert. 

A quick check on the FCDO website will tell you Spain is pretty crime-free, but especially in large tourist cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, it’s worth being extra careful. 

Here are a few tricks that I’ve been using to keep safe whilst I was staying in hostels and travelling across different cities:

  • Keep any valuable items locked in a safe in your hotel room. Or if you are travelling in hostels like I was, bring a padlock with you that you can use on lockers in shared rooms. (Some may provide you with one and some may charge a small fee). 
  • When travelling in Europe, there’s no need to carry large amounts of cash with you, given that most shops and restaurants in European cities will accept card payments. In Spain, it was useful to have some coins on me for the bus fare, but otherwise I was able to pay via contactless card payments at no extra fee (you’ll want to check if your bank charges fees for using your card abroad). If you are taking cash, check which currency you’ll need and try not to carry it all with you at once. 
  • Embrace the bumbag! I won’t travel without mine — you can store all your essentials close to your body and easily tuck it safely under a jacket. Whatever bag you are carrying, make sure it’s zipped up and in front of you — especially in crowded spaces.

Embrace the bumbag! I won’t travel without mine — you can store all your essentials close to your body and easily tuck it safely under a jacket

  • When I travel, my phone (and its GPS map) is my absolute lifesaver. But if you always have your phone out, then not only are you draining precious battery life, but it becomes an easy target to snatch. It’s understandable if you’re not ready to initiate complete tourist mode by using a paper map and analogue camera — so when using gadgets, just be aware of your surroundings and try not to leave your phone or bag sat on the table or chair next to you if you’re out in the open.
  • Before you embark on your trip you can take precaution by packing carefully. Being organised will help you keep track of where your belongings are and packing light means you’ll have less to lose! If you have a watch or jewellery with sentimental value, you might want to consider it at home, just to be safe. 

Being organised will help you keep track of where your belongings are and packing light means you’ll have less to lose

  • Without going full-on primary school and labelling every single item in your pencil case, I would recommend writing your details on any important items that aren’t obviously traceable to you. For example, I have my phone number (with the country code) written on my film camera in a permanent marker, so that in case I misplace it, there’s a chance it will make its way back to me and I won’t lose all my cherished trip photos! 
  • Whilst there may be some thieves out there, you’ll be surprised by the kindness of some strangers. When my friend lost her passport in Seville, some fellow Brits who found it managed to contact her via Facebook and return it safely. If this does happen to you, just make sure the person is genuine — they should be able to send you proof they have your belongings and get them to meet you in a public place!  

With the safety tips sorted, the next part is easy… enjoy the trip! I loved getting to know the south of Spain city by city. Each place has its own story to tell, and you’ll easily discover them by the people you meet en route and the through the history-lined streets and buildings. Top tip from me: A must visit for any architecture fan is Granada’s Alhambra palace and Seville’s Alcazar. Perhaps I’m in a fortunate position, but I promise it doesn’t take an entire Spanish degree to be able to get the most of a visit to Spain. Taking some time to plan a bit before your trip can certainly mean you get the most out of it. (Although learning a couple of Spanish greetings and phrases will never go a miss!)

Image credit: nikolaus_bader via Pixabay

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